Many Are Cold, but Few Are Frozen

David Lawrence's personal blog

Russian cars: garbage on wheels


You'd think that Mongolia, being a former Soviet satellite state, would have a lot of Russian cars. But it doesn't. Most cars in Ulaanbaatar are from Korea or Japan, second-hand imports with the steering wheel on the wrong side. Russian passenger cars are very rare. In fact, I have only seen two of them in all the time I've been here, a Lada and a Volga, both very old.

It's not hard to figure out why. Russian cars are garbage on wheels, and even the poorest Mongolians don't want them. A second-hand Korean car is of much higher quality and is relatively cheap, even though Russia is right next door.

Volgas were once prestigious cars in the Soviet Union, produced in what is now Nizhny Novgorod. The Volga I saw was driven by an older man, someone who was probably important in the old days. I'm sure he was very proud to own it. He must have spent a lot of time keeping it in good repair, winter after Mongolian winter.

I watched him drive it tenderly along a side street to Peace Avenue, over bumps and stones and potholes, trying to keep it safe in this new, fast world.